boy pulling girl in a toy wagon

Sean Edwards' Story

My older sister, Elaine, is 26 years old and has autism. The only word Elaine can vocalize is "yeah," so she is primarily nonverbal. She has very limited motor abilities and has a hard time walking. She has many behavioral issues including, but not limited to aggression (e.g., pinching, pulling hair, biting, head butting) and self-injury. Because of her self-injury, Elaine wears a protective helmet a lot of the time, for she has caused herself several hematomas. She also wears mitts on her hands to protect herself, others, and objects. Despite all of these challenges, Elaine provides our family with unconditional love and laughter. She is the most pure person I know, and loves life. I have learned so many life lessons about gratitude, love, charity, friendship, and kindness having been her younger brother. Her laugh is infectious and can put me instantly in the best mood. Elaine keeps me young at heart, because even though she is 26 years old, she still loves when I tickle her with the stuffed animal Woody Woodpecker, saying Ha-ha-ha-HAAAAAha!

woman and girl holding another girl

Elyse Sharp's Story

This is a picture of my sister and me with my other sister, Chantil. She is severely autistic, has mental retardation, and just happens to be perfect. She knows what she wants and how to tell you want she wants, but I’ve never heard her say a word. Chantil has caused my family countless sleepless nights. She has poured more gallons of milk on the floor than I can count. She has broken dishes, escaped from the house, and pulled glasses off strangers' faces. She never stops walking, and she will only sit still for her favorite TV stations (static). Despite all of these things, and maybe because of all of these things, I would not change growing up with Chantil in the least bit. Chantil has taught our family how to love unconditionally. She has taught us through breaking various objects that possessions should never be more important than serving others. She has taught us through taking hours to finally fall asleep that patience is a virtue. Chantil has taught us that each inpidual is priceless. She is the example of how one life can change countless others. Chantil is proof that individuals with disabilities do each have a significant purpose in life. And I love her for this.

several family members sitting

Crystal Ann Ison's Story

My youngest sister, Jeni, has Down Syndrome. From the day she came home from the hospital, I fell in love with her. I loved playing with her as a baby, and as she grew up we had even more fun. My favorite memories of her are when I would dance around the living room to help her fall asleep. Even now as I am 25 and she is 13, we have fun dancing around the living room to her favorite Disney music. She loves it when I come home from college for the summer, and wants me to sleep in her room the whole summer! She loves to go shopping with me or to just run around our yard. Sure we've had rough moments as she's grown up and had to learn rules of life, but her unbiased love to me is one of the sweetest things in my life.

man holding girl on his shoulders

Dorothy Mitchell's Story

If I could choose, I would take all of the hard times that came along with having Garth as a brother. He has taught me so much and has had a huge impact on who I have become. He taught me how to love. He loves with a pure Christ-like unconditional love. Everyone he meets he says "You my friend?" He is a teacher to all who will let him teach. He is a person worth knowing. Every life that Garth touches is enhanced. He is a joy to have, and I wouldn't have my life any other way.

man and woman smiling

Stefanie Wall's Story

I am so glad that we have Adam in our family! Although it hasn't always been easy and it's hard to see him struggle at times, I have learned so much about unconditional love, perseverance, and courage from him. He has been the light of our family, and I can't imagine my life without him. Besides, Adam gives the best hugs!